LDS support, Becker push give 'dramatic' boost to gay rights

When Salt Lake City embraced anti-discrimination ordinances for gay and transgender residents last fall -- snagging a landmark endorsement by the LDS Church and widespread support from city officials -- more shifted than public policy.

Public opinion -- throughout Utah -- jumped, too.

Support for some gay rights, short of marriage, climbed 11 percentage points across the state from a year ago, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune poll, and shot up by 10 percent among Mormons.

Two-thirds of Utahns (67 percent) favor employment protections and safeguards for same-sex couples such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights, up from 56 percent in January 2009, when pollsters asked the same question. (This year's survey of 625 frequent Utah voters has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points; last year's was 4.5 percent.)

Opposition dropped, overall, from 40 percent to 23 percent. Among LDS respondents, it plummeted from 48 percent to 28 percent.

"This isn't a gradual change of attitudes. This is a fairly dramatic jump," says Matthew Burbank, chairman of the University of Utah's political science department. "Clearly, the fact that the LDS Church was officially endorsing this position had an impact on people."

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